The Philadelphia Union were unable to get a road point in Portland as they lost to the Timbers 2-1.
The Union came into this game in the 4th place in the Eastern Conference, smack dab between the red line and first place. This was the beginning of tough 3 game road stretch that could make the difference from getting a home playoff game (or even a first round bye) or not making the playoffs at all. Portland came in just above the red line in the Western Conference, and really needing a home 3 points in their battle for a playoff spot.
Union Starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, Rosenberry; Carroll, Bedoya; Pontius, Barnetta, Herbers; Sapong
Portland Starting XI: Gleeson, Powell, S.Taylor, Ridgewell, Vytas; Chara, Jewsbury; Nagbe, Valeri, Mattocks; Adi.
The Union had several factors working against them: A long cross country flight. A hostile sold out Providence Park. Artificial turf. And to top it all off, a driving rain.
But at least the Union were well rested with a week since they gave up a potential home 3 points at the last minute in last week’s draw against the Montreal Impact. Portland was coming off a short week which saw them travel to Costa Rica to take on Deportivo Saprissa in a CONCACAF Champions League match Wednesday night. The Timbers lost that game, but they had left many of the key players at home so they would be ready to take on the boys in blue.
Union manager Jim Curtin was close to his ideal lineup ,with Brian Carroll returning to the starting XI after being out for a month with a plantar fascia injury. Carroll took the place of Warren Creavalle, who had done an adequate job of filling in at defensive midfield while Carroll was out. Fabian Herbers stayed on right wing, even though Ilsinho was available. Either Curtin has decided he now prefers Herbers at that position, or Ilsinho is still feeling the effects of his own plantar fascia injury.
The first half saw both sides getting their chances, but neither team could put the ball in the back of the net. The Union’s best chances came in a two-minute stretch starting in the 31st minute. First, Chris Pontius headed the ball into box for a waiting Herbers who wasn’t able to take the shot. A couple of minutes later, Portland GK Jake Gleeson made a great kick save off a CJ shot.
The fireworks started early in the second half in the 46th minute as Portland took a 1-0 lead on a Diego Valeri goal. Darren Mattocks turned Keegen Rosenberry around in the corner and passed it to Valeri waiting in front of the goal for an easy tap in. The Union didn’t waste any time tying the game back up as Herbers left the ball just outside the box for Pontius, who powerfully shot the ball into the far corner of the goal a minute later.
Mattocks helped engineer another Portland goal in 53rd minute as he ran past Rosenberry again and took a shot which was redirected by Fanendo Adi to put Portland back on top.
The Union were reduced to 10 men in the 85th minute after Joshua Yaro received a red card when he stepped on Mattocks’ foot. He would have been out even if was a yellow card, since he had he received one on a terrible call in the first half when Diego Chara went down untouched with Yaro trailing behind him. The Timbers spent the rest of the match playing keep-away to seal the victory for them.
The Union followed their familiar pattern of late where they are getting chances, but can’t seem to put the ball in the back of net. On the other side of the field, the back line struggled with their clearances. Though Rosenberry has had a potential rookie-of-the-year season so far, this will be a game he will want to forget, as Mattocks bullied him the entire match.
The only good thing about this loss was that it came at the hands of a Western Conference opponent, so they didn’t give 3 points to one of the teams they are battling with for playoff position. That will change next week as they go back on the road for a huge match against Toronto FC, the leader of the Eastern Conference. Since Yaro will be unavailable due to his red card, Ken Tribbett should get an opportunity to make amends for his terrible performance when the U last played Toronto at Talen Energy Stadium in August.